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War Horse - National Theatre (Olivier)

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

War Horse, based on a novel by Michael Morpurgo and adapted by Nick Stafford, will open in the Olivier Theatre on October 17, 2007 (previews from October 9) and continue in repertoire until February 14, 2008.

At the outbreak of World War One, Joey, young Albert’s beloved horse, is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France. He’s soon caught up in enemy fire, and fate takes him on an extraordinary odyssey, serving on both sides before finding himself alone in no man’s land.

But Albert cannot forget Joey and, still not old enough to enlist, he embarks on a treacherous mission to find him and bring him home.

The cast includes Alice Barclay, Jason Barnett, Finn Caldwell, Paul Chequer, Thomas Goodridge, Gareth Kennerley, Craig Leo, Rachel Leonard, Tim Lewis, Tommy Luther, Mervyn Millar, Emily Mytton, Toby Olie, Toby Sedgwick (Ted Narracott), Ashley Taylor-Rhys, Luke Treadaway (Albert Narracott), Alan Williams and Angus Wright (Captain Nicholls).

Morpurgo, Children’s Laureate from 2003-05, is the author of over 100 books. They include The Wreck of the Zanzibar (Whitbread Children’s Novel Award), The Butterfly Lion (Smarties Prize and Writers’ Guild Award), Kensuke’s Kingdom and Private Peaceful (both of which received the Children’s Book Award), The War of Jenkin’s Ear and Why the Whales Came.

Stafford’s plays include Katherine Desouza (Birmingham Rep), Love Me Tonight (Hampstead Theatre), Luminosity (RSC), The Snow Queen (Young Vic) and Battle Royal (NT in 1999).

War Horse will be directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, both Associate Directors of the NT but working together for the first time.

Elliott’s credits include Pillars of the Community and Thérèse Raquin at the National; and Much Ado About Nothing (RSC). Morris directed numerous productions while artistic director of BAC and developed Coram Boy for the NT.

War Horse will be presented in association with Handspring Puppet Company which was founded in Cape Town in 1981 by Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler.

Several of their productions have toured internationally, including Starbrites, Woyzeck on the Highveld and Ubu and the Truth Commission. Their most recent production, Tall Horse, the story of a captured giraffe, toured to America and Germany in 2005.

War Horse will be designed by Rae Smith, with puppet designs and fabrication by Adrian Kohler, lighting by Paule Constable, video design by Leo Warner (for Fifty Nine Ltd) and sound by Christopher Shutt.

NT Education will be collaborating with the Imperial War Museum on a programme of activities for schools and families; details will be available from April. A book about the process of putting War Horse on stage, part of the ‘National Theatre at work’ series, will be written by Mervyn Millar and published by Oberon in October.

War Horse follows His Dark Materials and Coram Boy and is suitable for age 12 and above.